I was on annual leave all of last week, and so on Wednesday I and a couple of friends went to Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales for a day out. Hawes, pronounced like ‘hoares’ (and yes, there are plenty of jokes based on its name) is a small market town in the famous valley of Wensleydale.
Of the three of us, none of us can drive or has access to a car, so this was a trip done by public transport.
Hawes does have a railway station, but no trains have called there since 1959, and it’ll be quite a while before the Wensleydale Railway reaches it. The next nearest station is at Garsdale, on the wonderful Settle-Carlisle Railway, which this year celebrated 25 years since it was saved from closure by British Rail. It’s still a few miles away, is only served by six trains a day in each direction, and like many stations on the line is in the middle of nowhere.
Thankfully it’s connected to Hawes by the Little White Bus, which charges a £3.50 per person flat fare each way. It’s timed to meet some of the trains at Garsdale, although be aware that some journeys don’t normally run on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays – we made this mistake and nearly got stranded in Hawes coming back. Outside of these times it operates on a request basis, so if you do need to travel you can phone them in advance.
Hawes’ main attraction is the Wensleydale Creamery, which produces Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese (now an EU Protected Origin product). After closing in 1992, it was rescued in a management buyout, and now employs almost 200 people and supports 36 local farms. The creamery includes a small museum, charting its history and how the cheese is made – on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays you can actually see cheese being made, but we went on Wednesday so we didn’t. There’s also a huge shop, selling all of the varieties of cheese produced there with ample free samples, a café and a restaurant. You can probably spend up to a couple of hours here, and then it’s just a short walk back into the town.
The town itself is lovely, with narrow cobbled streets and plenty of small, independent shops. And, like most Yorkshire towns, several pubs serving local ales. Elijah’s is a good food emporium, and there was an excellent quirky second-hand bookshop.
Other attractions include the Ropemakers – a rope manufacturer that allows you to walk through its workshops and see how their ropes are made (and buy some yourself), and the Dales Countryside Museum, which we didn’t visit.
Earlier this year the first stage of Tour de France passed through Hawes. Having descended from Buttertubs pass, the peleton rode south into Hawes and then took a sharp right heading off east. There are still plenty of cycling and tour-themed things in the town, even though it’s been several months since the race.
All in all we had a really nice visit, even though it took me three trains and a bus each way to get there, and cost me over £20 in bus and rail fares. It was worth it though and I’d happily go again – but probably by car next time. All the photos from my visit are on Flickr.